While any type of large gatherings may present risk for increasing the spread of the virus, some parts of the country are seeing a decline in cases and are reopening their church doors.
We know at some point we will all be rejoining our congregations and reconnecting in person, so how will worship be different?
Obviously the basic Tenets and Traditions of our faith will not change, but the way we hold our services and conduct fellowship most assuredly will.
Each church will need to be sure to connect with local and state authorities on current conditions in their community. It will also be essential to understand and identify who in their congregation is at higher risk to limit their exposure. (Remember, individual health information is covered under the Privacy Act, so it should be secured and considered confidential.)
We’ve all adapted to online services, but offering outdoor services may be an option that offers comfort to those still anxious to gather indoors.
It may be best to offer several options to your congregants in regards to services. We’ll all need to be prepared for the eventual return of our congregations to our facilities. Utilizing websites and social media to show how you’re addressing guidelines is a great start.
Posting information online ahead of time also helps those volunteers responsible for ensuring guidelines are followed and it limits their interactions.
If families are seated in one area and individual attendees in another, then signage, maps and/or diagrams indicating the seating should be prominently displayed outside and inside your church.
In addition to seating information it is worth repeating all of the CDC guidelines for safe attendance.
Here are a few resources that you can use around your facilities:
Ensuring your congregants and parishioners are safe in your facility will go far beyond the information provided here. Keep in mind your own facility, the layout and accessibility will all play major roles in developing your customized plan. Involve other individuals to walk through the process and take notes specific to your facility.
Consider all aspects of your Service or Mass too. How do you adapt how you welcome, communion, collection or offerings, arrival and departures? Do you still offer children’s ministry, VBS, formation classes or childcare? What about coffee and doughnuts or Wednesday night dinner? Will you hand out bulletins, use hymnals, and other worship aids?
There is a lot to consider but it doesn’t all have to be done at once. We all recognize the uncertainty of the times. If something doesn’t work, be willing to adapt and accept feedback.
If there are individuals who aren’t comfortable with the changes just yet, encourage them with grace and patience to join you online.
We are all part of the change of what church will become.